Benevento / Russo Duo: Higher Ground, South Burlington, VT 12/08/06

The Benevento/Russo Duo rocked their way through a single set at Higher Ground that was heavy on improvisation, but remained focused on the studio takes of their material.  Having toured extensively with Phish alum Mike Gordon, Higher Ground has gradually become a second home away from The Duo’s NYC hot spot – The Knitting Factory.

Starting the night off with “Something for Rockets,” the organ and drum combo exhibited an energy across the room that made the audience feel as though their eardrums were being assaulted by nothing short of a quartet.

As the set progressed, the Duo performed “Powder” that featured Marco Benevento’s usual keyboard mystery, while drummer Joe Russo riffed around on a Fender Telecaster.  Following “Powder,” the group tore into “Play Pause Stop”  off their newly released self-titled album of the same name. As the crowd sang along to the group’s only composition with vocals, Benevento proceeded to tweak and toggle a glowing array of customized effects.
As Benevento wrapped his Radiohead fused jam, the Duo continued working their way through the set before wrapping it with an impressive performance of “My Pet Goat.” The Duo has long been known to utilize a unique stage dynamic, and this reality shone the brightest on their set closer, as Russo laid down an electronic drum beat, overlapping it with an aggressive solo on his standard drum kit.  At the same time, Benevento took his exploratory sense of improvisation to heart with a spacey organ solo that was performed over a keyboard riff that he looped.   

After a few moments of crowd chanting, the Duo returned to the stage with none other than Mike Gordon. It had been rumored that a sit in was in the works, and fans left far from disappointed. The “Trio” ripped into “Becky,” and as the song progressed, they continued to stray farther and farther away from the composition fans were accustomed to hearing on Best Reason To Buy The Sun.  Later, The Trio found themselves neck-deep in a completely improvised jam that took the encore well past the venue’s curfew. By night’s end, the Benevento/Russo Duo’s set at Higher Ground pleased their fans and offered a sit-in that was sure to offer new material for the blogging community. Although the freshness of the evening’s jams were far from inspired at times, the unique stage dynamic that the Duo have honed was more than enough to make up for any insufficient improvisation.

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